Sto Lyko film review – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14 / 02 / 2013

The cheek, rather than the fist.

How one bears the economy of poverty and makes deals with the enemy: crisis-cinema from Italy, Greece, Spain and Serbia in the international Forum of young film.

The greek word for “end” has a strange double-meaning. This becomes clear particularly in the end credits of the film Sto lyko: TELOS, it says in ominous letters. With the end a movement arrives at its goal. And the end seems to affect more than just the film. It radiates onto the landscape and the country in which this anti-shepard-idyll of Aran Hughes’ and Christina Koutsospyrous’ film is set. A low mountain range in western Greece. The knolls all carry the massive poles of a big power line. At the foot of these metal giants Giorgios keeps assembling his flock.

If the english subtitles to Sto lyko don’t mislead, then this ‘to the wolf’ means: ‘damme’. A swear word through which the despair is to be contained. The livelihoods in this area are crumbling away, nobody wants to buy goats anymore, and Giorgios spends his evenings alone in a tavern drinking beer and grumbling about the politicians that have let the Greek state go down in the way in which in Sto lyko the dogs are thrown pieces of intestines every now and then. Christina Koutsospyrou and Aran Hughes have worked with protagonists who have essentially played themselves. Through this their film gains a strong tension, as it is at the same time documentary-realist and rethoric-alegoric. When the wind tears at the trees then this is a natural process, but in the dramatic narrative it becomes a sign of a dynamic of change which the people are exposed to without being able to resist it.

Sto lyko is only one of several films from Greece in the Berlinale’s Forum this year. Already in this small selection one can see the many possibilities to confront the crisis, which of course has effects far beyond the country. One can trace it through the forum and through the southern European hemisphere, in contributions from Italy (“Materia oscura”), Spain (“La Plaga”) or Serbia (“Krugovi”). The shepards in Sto lyko are people thrown back on what Ester Duflo and Abhijit V. Banerflee in their influential book describe as ‘poor economics’: They have to calculate carefully who they will call with the little bit of credit they have on their mobile phones. They have a flatscreen TV, but no flour; they smoke expensive cigarettes, but always wear the same clothes. These contradictions may partially rest on decisions that were made in better times. At the same time Koutsospyrou and Hughes make clear that for them it is not about creating a social study, but rather something more complicated. One could see Sto lyko as a meditation on the limits of individual acts in the context of systemic forces and large-scale transformations.

When Koutsospyrou and Hughes attempt to read in several minute long shots in the faces of the people, then they also throw up the question if the human subject, in his limitations is even equipped to assert himself against history. Finiteness afterall is the Telos, something we tend to mystify through narratives of growth. Cinema counters with fables of perish.
In comparison to the other crisisdocuments from the south of Europe ‘Krugovi’ seems strangely arrogant, as if he knew more about (narrative, therapuetic, national) endings than the Telos, which in Sto lyko despite all end-time vehemence still remains open.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Translation: Adriana Eysler